WindowsNetworking.com Monthly Newsletter of May 2012 Sponsored by: KEMP Technologies

Welcome to the WindowsNetworking.com newsletter by Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP. Each month we will bring you interesting and helpful information on the world of Windows Networking. We want to know what all *you* are interested in hearing about. Please send your suggestions for future newsletter content to: dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

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1. Evolution of Windows File Systems and ReFS

File systems organize the data stored on a disk into files and directories (folders), and keep tabs on the location of each file on the physical disk. Those of us who have been around since the beginning of Windows remember the FAT file system that was carried over from Microsoft-DOS. It is supported by all versions of Windows, but it has some serious limitations, such as a 2 GB limit on file size and 4 GB for volumes. FAT32 came along with Windows 95 OSR2, and increased the max file size to 4 GB and volume size to 2 TB (although XP only supports volumes up to 32 GB).

NTFS was introduced with Windows NT 3.1 in 1993 and is supported by subsequent Windows operating systems. It offers many advantages, including support for extremely large volumes and file size limited only by the size of the volume. NTFS has been the only choice for systems joined to Windows domains, because FAT doesn’t support Active Directory management features.

NTFS is getting a little long in the tooth, though, having been around for almost two decades. In the early 2000s, Microsoft was working on a new file system called WinFS that they demoed at the 2003 PDC, and it was supposed to be part of “Longhorn” (code name for Vista and Windows Server 2008) but it was dropped before release – one of a number of disappointments that led to Vista’s low popularity.

But the idea of a new file system to eventually replace NTFS didn’t die. In January of this year, Microsoft went public with the news that Windows Server 2012 (at that time known as Windows Server 8) would support a new file system named ReFS (which stands for Resilient File System). The interesting thing is that it’s going to be incorporated in phases, first as part of the Storage Spaces feature in Windows Server 2012. Later it will be extended to the Windows client OS. The “resiliency” in the name refers to the ability to detect and correct data corruption, and maintain multiple copies of data on separate disks and reallocate data transparently.

ReFS is currently far from being an all-purpose file system. Booting from an ReFS volume is not supported in Windows Server 2012 and it can’t be used to format removable drives. Interestingly, ReFS does not support some of the features that gave NTFS an advantage over FAT, such as file level encryption (EFS), compression, and disk quotas. It does support other NTFS features such as BitLocker encryption, ACLs, change notification, junction/mount/reparse points, and volume snapshots.

It looks as if NTFS will be with us for a while longer.  And that’s okay. The introduction of a new file system is something that probably should be done gradually. In fact, Microsoft took a similar approach when introducing NTFS, as it was first available only on the server. Windows 9x continued to use the FAT/FAT32 file systems, although Windows 2000 Workstation did support NTFS. New file system technologies tend to cause compatibility and migration issues, so Microsoft is working hard to maintain as much compatibility with NTFS as possible and reused the code that implements the file system semantics.

Are you looking forward to a new and improved file system, or is NTFS good enough for you and if it’s not broke, Microsoft shouldn't fix it? Let us know your thoughts!

See you next month! – Deb.
By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP

dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

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Quote of the Month - All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward. – Ellen Glasgow
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3. WindowsNetworking.com Articles of Interest

4. Administrator KB Tip of the Month

Understanding Preferred IPv6 addresses

When you run ipconfig /all on a Windows 7 computer, you will typically see the word "Preferred" beside the auto-generated link local IPv6 address for the computer.  Does this mean that Windows prefers IPv6 over IPv4 for communicating over the network?

Not usually.  What "Preferred" generally means in this context is simply that the IPv6 address has been verified to be unique on the link and is therefore allowed for normal usage of communicating over the network.  And if both your IPv4 and IPv6 are displayed as "Preferred" then the preference between them as far as network communications is concerned is determined by the prefix policy table as defined in RFC 3484, click here for details.

5. Windows Networking Tip of the Month

Ever wondered if you could save money on storage? Sure, iSCSI and Fibre Channel are great, but they can hit you in the wallet. What about a software based approach to enterprise storage? No, I’m not talking about the software RAID versions available in versions of Windows Server up to Windows Server 2008 R2. What I am talking about is an entirely new type of software-based storage system that allows you to create storage pools out of industry standard Serial Attached SATA or SCSI disks. This new Windows Server 2012 feature is called "Storage Spaces".

Storage Spaces enables you to create a RAID type configuration using relatively inexpensive disks and serial storage enclosures and then create storage pools that are comprised of one or more disks in the SAS enclosure. The collection of disks is called a “Space”. In that space, you can create one or more “virtual disks” which can then be formatted as volumes. You can thinly provision your volumes so that you can actually create volumes that are larger than the amount of available physical storage. When the volume is about to exceed the available disk space in the pool, you receive a warning and then you can add more disks without having to take any of the existing disks offline, which also allows the services running on those disks to continue running.

If you lose a disk, no problem – you can take advantage of 2 or 3 copy mirroring or parity to make sure that data is not lost. Again, services continue to run without interruption and you can replace the dead disk without having to rebuild the array; it all happens in the background. If you like the sound of that, then click here for more information and download Windows Server 2012 and give Storage Spaces a test drive.

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6. Windows Networking Links of the Month

7. Ask Sgt. Deb

QUESTION:

Hey Deb,

If there is one thing in the Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V that will make me want to run and try out Windows Server 2012, what would that be? This is your one chance to get me to try out Windows Server 2012! – Dmitry.

ANSWER:

Gee thanks, Dmitry – no pressure there at all :-). Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V has so many great new features that it’s really hard to pick which one is the best of all. It’s like asking a parent to tell you who his favorite child is. However, out of all the amazing things that are included in the Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, I think I would pick the new Hyper-V replica function.

Why? Because backing up VMs is a major pain in the neck using Hyper-V today. Just do a search on how to run a backup of a running VM and you’ll find a ton of guidance on various ways to do it, but none of them are easy and most of them have significant limitations. Sure, you can use expensive third party solutions, but that’s no fun and it’s hard to get enough money in the budget to do all the things you want these days.

With Hyper-V Replica, you have the perfect in-box backup solution. Hyper-V Replica allows you to replicate Hyper-V virtual machines from one Hyper-V host to another Hyper-V. This is an amazingly low cost solution for any organization because it provides a storage-agnostic and workload-agnostic method that replicates asynchronously over IP-based networks across different storage subsystems and even across sites. You don’t need shared storage, you don’t need storage arrays and third party replication solutions are not needed. Also, you can test the Replica virtual machine without disrupting the ongoing replication. How cool is that? If a failure occurs at the original server, you can quickly restore the application by bringing up the replicated virtual machine at the Replica site. And it works automatically, in the background, without convoluted backup routines and limitations.

There you go! Give Hyper-V Replica a try and I’m sure you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it! For more information, check out the Understand and Troubleshoot Hyper-V Replica Guide.

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